Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in Their Late Twenties: The Importance of Social Bonding Trajectories [2017]

Although weak social bonds are found to be associated with addictive behaviors in cross-sectional studies, few studies have explored the longitudinal impacts of social bonds on nonmedical prescription drug use (NPDU). This study adopted a developmental perspective on social bonds and tested how their different trajectories are associated with NPDU among adults. With panel surveys from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health from 1994 to 2008, this study employed group-based latent trajectory modeling to obtain the different trajectories of social bonds including religious, civic, familial, educational, and marital, and then used them as predictors of NPDU while controlling for potential confounders and the baseline NPDU. The findings show that constant and high-level social bonds significantly reduce the risk of NPDU, except for educational bond. However, for religious, civic, and educational bonds, the “low initial” trajectories are not significantly different from the “high-decrease” trajectories, implying that strong early-life social bonds do not prevent NPDU if such bonds register a recent decline. Weak social bonds constitute significant risk of NPDU for adults in their late twenties, and recent social bonds override the contribution of early-life bonds in most cases. Policy makers may consider strategies to sustain the active and meaningful participation in conventional institutions, and not solely rely on programs that facilitate early-life social integration.

Xiaozhao Y. Yang, Tingzhong Yang

Journal of Drug Issues, Vol 47, Issue 4, 2017